Saturday, April 21, 2012

Reflections on “Designing a Smithsonian Exhibition on the U.S. Dropping of the Atomic Bomb Simulation” Lesson

In my year two project, I created a lesson plan in which students debated how the U.S. dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki should be remembered. This year, I conducted that lesson plan and would like to share my reflections.

Overview of lesson: Students examined the idea of historiography, as well as historical content addressed in the MA state frameworks (US.II 16). The three days of the lesson plan included a day for instruction, student preparation and simulation and reflection. There was not enough time for the lesson to be conducted properly over the course of three consecutive days, so it was suggested to be spread out over the course of at least seven days. It centered on content from “The End of World War II and the Use of the Atomic Bomb” seminar, along with the use of Prezi. It is assumed that students have a prerequisite knowledge of using Prezi, as a presentation tool, as the lesson does not include instruction on using that software. Students learned the content of U.S.II 16 from teacher instruction during day one, then analyzed a primary source document from the 1994 Senate hearings about an upcoming Smithsonian exhibition on the dropping of the atomic bomb, and during day three they will have a simulation of a similar hearing set in the present day, for a fictional upcoming exhibition to debut during 2015. For the simulation, students were assigned different perspective to represent (WWII Veterans, Congressional Representatives, scientists, historians, Japanese-Americans, Japanese survivors, Pacifists, Holocaust survivors, families/decedents of prominent individuals from that era, etc.) or were committee member that would be responsible for making the final decisions about the content and design of the exhibition. This lesson plan ideally fits in at the end of a World War II unit and the start of a unit on Cold War unit over the course of a seven day period.

Results: You can view students work here: their reflections, students indicated they both enjoyed and learned from this project. They took pride in their work and some students even began using Prezi for other class assignments, both in my class and in other disciplines. Personal Reflections: These experiences have helped my professional growth tremendously. I used new content knowledge, a new instructional strategy and integrated a new type of technology. Most importantly, I taught the “Dropping of the Atomic Bomb” in a completely new way and I believe my students benefited from that. In the past, I just had students debate the issues. This year, I had students examine the legacy of that historical event and use a real-life application (designing an exhibit). It also fit with my theme for the year “War and Society” with a sub theme of “Public History.” In this way, my final product helped me synthesize all the ideas I gained and get them out to my students. After doing this project with my students, I also made notes for revision for next year. I would have liked a more in-depth reflection that was weighted more. I also found that some students were confused about what a primary source “document” was and the idea that the needed the audio of an oral story (some just found texts of an interview). Thus, I think I could improve my instruction and be a little more clear about what I was looking for. Lastly, as with most assignments, I would have liked more time. We were rushed in our presentations at the end and next year, I will allot more class time for synthesis.

1 comment:

  1. Tracey, your reflection on this lesson is insightful and helpful. Having enough class time is always a challenge but I commend you for having students reflect on the project, getting kids to think about their thinking is powerful and helpful for their decision making and opinions both in and out of the classroom.